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Warning: disturbing content!

In 2009 the Sri Lankan army crushed the Tamil insurgents, the LTTE. More than 360000 Tamil civilians were trapped in the fighting theatre. The Sri Lankan government established a “No Fire Zone” to protect the civilians. According to the UN Panel report, more than 40000 civilians died. Less conservative figures put the toll at 80000. This footage was taken from the No Fire Zone on 10th of May 2009.

The government of Sri Lanka claimed that it pursued a “Zero civilian casualties” policy; in an interview with NDTV, Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa stated that no more than 100 civilians died[1].

Any possible debate about Sri Lanka can start only after the vision of these images. They are crude, but they are testimony of what happened.

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Protest againts Vedanta for its operations in India.

Protest againts Vedanta for its operations in India.

It was a quest for survive that pushed Vedanta to find another, lucrative business. In fact its plan for more than $5.8 billion to increase the Aluminium production has been rejected by the government, due to mounting international pressure to protect the Adivasis in Niyamgiri Hills[1]. The repercussion of that failure is big enough to be the mover for the challenge against Ambani’s Reliance.

 Cairn main assets in India are in Rajastan, a huge field estimated in billions of dollars. That was the jackpot for a small venture like Cairn; But to compete with Reliance, you need to be much bigger and much linked to political power. Requirements that Vedanta matches. On the other hand, to exploit Vedanta’s economy of scale, Agarwal needed to grab any possibility on the market.

The Mannar Basin oil fields were ideal. Unfortunately the Sri Lankan civil war was a major obstacle, with the fierce LTTE ready to go all way for the cause of independence. The Sri Lankan government lacked the political will to annihilate the rebels.

A march of the Balck Tigers, the LTTE special forces for suicidal attacks.

A march of the Balck Tigers, the LTTE special forces for suicidal attacks.

In fact 20 years ago, when the Indian Peace Keepers intervened in the fight, Colombo incredibly re-armed the rebels, just to kick out New Delhi from the island[2]. In 2005 the parties were close to a peace treaty. But while Sri Lanka was ready to devolution, the LTTE wanted a clear path to secession. Meaning: conflict could last for another generation.

So the new President Rajapaksa changed the strategy[3]: now it was complete destruction of the rebels. Why this stance wasn’t adopted earlier? Two reasons: civilian casualties involved in chasing the guerrilla forces. And India. New Delhi never really approved the elimination of the LTTE (though responsible of the killing of Rajiv Gandhi). But in 2006, the Indian position changed. Suddenly New Delhi offered complete support: maritime patrol, electronic surveillance, military and political backing (the Tamil nationalist sentiment in Tamil Nadu were controlled by the then Chief Minister, Mr Karunanidhi, a hard-core supporter of LTTE, but involved in a personal scandal during that period[4]).

In 2009 80000 Tamil civilians have been massacred on the shores of Nandikadal lagoon and in Mullivaikal.

In 2009 80000 Tamil civilians have been massacred on the shores of Nandikadal lagoon and in Mullivaikal.

The rest is history: from the bloody shores of the Nandikadal lagoon, 280 000 Tamil civilian come out, leaving behind possibly more than 80000 dead. The fate of the Tamil population in their land now is the one of an occupied country. The military presence is strangling any activity.

But the Mannar Basin fields are blooming. In 2013 Sri Lanka launched another bidding round, this time everybody in the sector was queuing: Exxon, Total, Gazprom, Eni[5].

Clearly the news of Cairn-Vedanta success reached the big players of oil and gas.

The question now is: who could provoke a radical change in the Indian policy towards Sri Lanka? Cairn is out of the question.

Vedanta entered the game only in 2011, when the war was over since 2 years. If you believe in conspiracy, you could suspect that Vedanta chased the deal much earlier, convinced the Indian government to intervene in its favour and Cairn to spearhead the negotiation to avoid attention.

Of course this is just an exercise of speculation.

The signing ceremony of the agreement of petroleum resources between the Government of Sri Lanka and Cairn India (Pvt. Ltd) . President Mahinda Rajapaksa,  Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources A.H.M. Fowzie and Indrajith Benerjee, Chief Finance Officer and Ajay Gupta Head of Commercial and New Business of Cairn India . Photo Sudath Silva

The signing ceremony of the agreement of petroleum resources between the Government of Sri Lanka and Cairn India (Pvt. Ltd) . President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources A.H.M. Fowzie and Indrajith Benerjee, Chief Finance Officer and Ajay Gupta Head of Commercial and New Business of Cairn India .
Photo Sudath Silva

Forget the LTTE, forget even the Tamils. If you slaughter tens of thousands of people, if you treat the survivors like animals, if you do respect human dignity, then sooner or later you’ll pay that price. And I’m not talking of resurgence of terrorism. Sri Lankans already have the worst punishment: president Rajapaksa, a despot who rules the country like a private property. Sri Lankans decided to enslave themselves to the ultimate dinasty on the island.

The issue is not about the Tamils. It is about impunity and lack of accountability. Clearly the Rajapaksa administration received a green light by the international community. The UN, the West, India let the Rajapaksas walk away after the slaughter of a city like Vavunya (according to UN)(according to the Bishop of Mannar, in his testimony for the LLRC, it is more likely a city like Kandy). What do you expect after that? Any other murder, any other disappearance is petty crime in comparison. The Sri Lankan citizens, all of them, have forget precisely this simple fact: how can you call for justice, after that?

Any misconduct, from threatening journalists, to assaulting judges, is trivial. Moreover, do you think the right of law can be exercised if you have skipped so quickly any investigation about the end of the war?

The Sri Lankan citizens have been lured by their government, but also by a majoritarian ideology and a guilty sense of ownership over the island, that any dissent can be buried by any means. The LTTE started an armed struggle out of desperation. The leadership of Prabharakan soon spiralled in a vortex of violence for the sake of it; it was a response to the oppression and devastation of the Tamil culture and identity. Most important, the deranged trajectory of the LTTE didn’t represent and include all the Tamils. The elimination of 40 000 human beings is a crime of genocide. Forget Tamil Eelam: if you are a proud Sri Lankan, so proud that you’ll never consider the division of the country, then you must act immediately to seek the truth. To bring justice to human beings and to Sri Lanka, to the good name of Sri Lanka.

Poor Sri Lanka, if you think that killing innocents is a good way to honour your country, if you think that the blood of children, elderly and armless unfortunate, is a good way to worship this Buddhist soil.

Are you really convince that a Buddha will be pleased by this bloody sacrifice, that to hold a flag in his name, you had to rape, torture and massacre thousands? In what kind of hell have you fallen, my poor Sri Lanka.

Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, India

Recently1 the UK High Commissioner planned a visit to Gujarat. The aim is to strengthen economic ties for British companies. But the mission will be very limited in scope without meeting the Chief Minister of the State, Narendra Modi. The controversial leader is one of the most accredited candidate of the opposition to win the next national elections. The controversy has its origin in the 2002 communal riots, which took place in Gujarat. Thousands were killed, prevalently Muslims. Mr Modi is accused of slow reaction and of superficial investigation of the culprits. In fact his own party, the nationalistic BJP, is believed to be highly responsible and directly involved in the incidents. In the following years an implicit agreement amongst European diplomats effectively cut off any major relation with Mr Modi. Now, with Gujarat elections coming in less than a month, the move of the British High Commissioner is a clear message: the stop of the diplomatic embargo against Narendra Modi.

Gujarat communal riots, 2002.

The comment is: what can you do? Can you really boycott the democratic will of a state? Can you seriously interfere with the internal political life of a foreign country? Of course not. A massacre happened, thousands were killed. Can we exercise more pressure to obtain justice for them? No. So let’s make a move and lobby for your companies. Better now on the minor stage of regional election than later on under national (and international) spotlight.

The other, implicit message is: we firmly stand against perpetrators of crimes and atrocities. But only up to a certain point. When the cost of principles is higher than the economic return, principles can go back to be a fight of intellectuals.

Foreign Ministers from UK, Mr. Milliband, and from France, Mr Kouchner, meet Sri Lanka’s president Mr Rajapaksa.

The British government tried the “impossible” in 2009, sending even Mr Milliband. He and Mr Kouchner fought for a couple of days with words, then they gave up. Verbally, the international community condemned the massacres of 40 000 (according to UN) (though it is likely to be more than double that, with the most dramatic estimates putting the figure at 140 000), but no action seriously concerns the Rajapaksa administration. Why?

First, you can say geopolitical reasons. China, India, the String of Pearls. So Europe was really toothless in that occasion. And after 3 years you have to decide: can you do justice to the victims. The answer of the British government has been a sound no. It’s too early to trial the government, it’s too late to save the victims. So let’s move on. There are alliances and businesses to attend.

Sri Lanka’s president Rajapaksa and the Queen, Elizabeth II.

This year Rajapaksa was invited for the Queen’s Jubilee and later on for the inauguration of the Olympics. Sri Lanka will also host the Commonwealth summit in 2013.

What is wrong is that the events of 2009 don’t have culprits. But everybody in the international community has enough information that clearly points at the president and at his administration. Maybe it’s too early for an international trial and it is definitely too late to save the victims. Nonetheless you are still in time to stand for justice and truth. Brutality and crime against humanity are always on the wrong side. Is there really a need to say it? It appears so, because the urge to do business, to come first for deals, can obscure even the most basic principles.

It is not always good diplomacy to confront a country; the USA made a mission to isolate Iran. Maybe the UK doesn’t have the power and the will to be so vocal against Sri Lanka.

But if you start now to have normalized relationships, it is an implicit admission of acceptance for what happened.

The message is: stand for principles till you can, then shake hands and sign contracts.

Children killed in a schoolyard bombed

On the 22th of September 1995 government forces started heavy shelling in the area of Vadamaratchi, by Jaffna. The teachers of the Nager Kovil school were quite nervous about the fate of the pupils, because of the nearby bombings. At noon the Junior school ended and so the children went home. The seniors students instead remained. A commemoration was planned at that time, under a tent. At 12:45 a bomb fell among the people, killing instantly 24 children and 15 others. Later many died for the injuries, bringing the final toll to 501.

After a week, the Defence Spokesman admitted the incident. The tent nearby the school was believed to be an LTTE facility2.

These are the name of the victims:

Tharmalingam Usanthini (13),

Markandu Nagalogini (10),

Thamotharam Sakunthala (12),

R. Regina (11),

Pologarajah Thushanthini (14),

Ravindran Amirtha (10),

Balachandran Rajitha (10),

Navaratnasamy Umathevy (12),

Suntharalingam Palani (15),

Suntharalingam Tharsini (14),

Kugasaravanamalai Tharsini (13),

Rajeev Gandhi Venu (11),

Krishnagopal Thavaseelan (13),

Rajaratnam Kavitha (10),

Nagamutthu Senthilvel (15),

Alfonse Amalaviji(14),

Mahalingam Sanmugavadivelan(16),

R. Sumithra(10),

K. Methini(14),

Navamany Mithura(14),

Sellam(15),

Ragavan(16),

Thangarasa Vasanthakumar(06),

Mylvaganam Gananathan(14),

Ranijithkumar Rajitha (11)